Like so many writing teachers, I've been told I sometimes drive my students to depression or binge-drinking. Once, an online student who was about to meet me in person told a colleague that she needed to "face her fear" -- that face of fear being yours truly. Yes, I can be that delightful.Read the whole thing. Peters nuances his argument quite a bit near the end, stating that while "a 'slightly negative mood'" may help we scribblers, "there's no evidence to suggest that a really awful mood might do the same." I concur, as far as that goes. While the narrator of Ecclesiastes says that the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, I'm not sure said house helps you put pen to paper. Indeed, works written out of deep despair tend to come off as mawkish and self-indulgent and almost impenetrably private. Perhaps the role of suffering is to give us the ideas that we treasure up for a time when we're better able to evaluate them. That's well and good. When it comes time to open up the word processor, though, give me a sunny day, a good night's sleep and a fresh-roasted cup of Guatemalan Finca San José Ocaña.
Well, maybe my reign of misery isn't all bad: It turns out that "low-intensity" negative moods are linked to better writing than happy moods. As shown in the research of University of New South Wales Psychology Professor Joe Forgas, when we're not walking on clouds or doing a happy dance, we tend to be more careful and mindful of details. ...
In one experiment, Forgas's guinea pigs -- humans, in this case -- watched either a comedy or a film on cancer before being asked to write persuasively. Others wrote emails after a similar "mood induction." In all cases, the sad folks produced arguments that were more concrete and therefore more persuasive than the happy campers. Just by being in a bad mood, Forgas's subjects unconsciously followed the advice I constantly give students: "Details matter," "Give me an example," "Back up what you're saying," and "Be more specific."
(Picture: CC 2009 by _Nezemnaya_; Hat Tip: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent)